So here we go into the first level of my layers of crazy. As you can tell from yesterday's post I really had a pretty normal childhood up until this point. Yes we were poor, big deal a lot of people are. Yes my parents both worked and were busy, big deal a lot of people's parents did. Up until this point everything is really hanging together and it's fairly normal. Then the shift started.
Anyone who has lived with a drug abuser can tell you that you don't notice how big the problem is until well into the addiction. I don't know if my oldest brother ever used, it doesn't seem as though he would have, more of a drinker than a druggie would be my guess. I know my middle brother didn't. He's the smart one in the bunch, studious, conscientious, geek and nerd. So my sister's drug use must have come as a shock to my parents and I know they really didn't know how to handle it. I know they thought about sending her to what was basically a kid's home for kids with issues which was run through the church. The name totally escapes me right now. She eventually ended up getting cleaned up with the help of our youth minister. But that is later in the story.
Sibling rivalry is normal. For the most part you get spats and tiffs and fights between siblings all the time. When you add a 7 year age gap you are either going to have less of them because the older one is too far removed to be concerned with the younger or you are going to get more because there is no common ground due to the age difference. We fell into the more side. Like I said she went from being the only girl and the baby to having to share everything including her room. When she was 9 or 10 her appendix burst and she was rushed to emergency surgery. As a get well soon gift my parents bought her a Mrs. Beasley doll. Mrs. Beasley was this little Grandma looking doll with glasses and an apron, you pulled a string and she said things like, "Climb into my lap and let me tell you a story". Mrs. Beasley was my constant companion until I was probably 5 or 6. Yep. I took her doll. Her doll they bought her after having emergency surgery. My parents bought her another doll but I would not be parted from that one.
So you take the normal resentments that might come from our situation add in a healthy dose of too much responsibility, I mean what teenager wants to have to take care of their little sister every day after school when all of their friends are out having fun? And then mix that together with equal parts pot and speed and you get a pretty combustible concoction. And that's what we had.
I'm having a really difficult time explaining exactly what happened over those years. It's hard to put in to words to make it understandable. To show what it was like. There was physical abuse, which is the easiest for people to understand, there was mental abuse which I think was the most damaging and then there was just the exhaustion of never knowing what was coming. If she was taking speed she was manic and that could mean either good times or really bad times. If she was smoking pot she was either giggly and hungry or depressed and paranoid. And if she was out of both? Then she was angry and panicked. All of that I figured out later. While I was living it I had no idea that her moods were chemically induced. I just knew that when I opened the door from coming home from school I never knew what was going to greet me on the other side. And on weekends or during the summer that could shift multiple times in a day. I was constantly watching for the change and trying to predict what would come next.
My sister was a pro at finding the part of you that was the most vulnerable then she would go back to that again and again. I used to sing out loud all of the time. She would tell me I sounded like a dying cow. I was 7 years younger than she was so she went after body image, she would tell me my chest grew in instead of out, by age 11 I had a larger chest than she did, but she still went after body image, because it bothered me though she did change it to fat from flat. She had long blond hair and I had short brown hair. Her eyes are green or blue depending on the day and mine are brown. So it was shit brown eyes and dirt brown hair. All of this sounds so much like normal sibling stuff when I write it down (and I did warn you that part of this would sound whiny) but when it's a constant barrage being lobbed at you it is too much. Nothing I ever did was right. Cleaning house, doing laundry, trying to cook, the way I dressed the way I looked nothing. She would find something and pick and pick and pick until I was in tears. Then I was a crybaby and a wimp.
Now take that and add to it the random rules and punishments. I was allowed to talk on the phone for 5 minutes at a time and for no more than twenty minutes all together. This is in the day and age before cell phones, text messages and IM. And back then you would rush home from school to call your best friend and talk about everything that had happened and then the boy you liked would call and you would sit and not say anything to each other except..."You hang up first...no you" for ages. If the phone rang she would set the timer and if I went over then phone privileges were revoked completely. She told me years later it was because she was dealing by that point and needed the phone free for her contacts. I spent a lot of time grounded from the phone. Trying to wrap up a conversation in 5 minutes without letting the person on the other end know you had a timer set because, "You aren't responsible enough to respect other people's need to use the phone," was tough.
Then there were the groundings and un-groundings. She would forget where I was. Literally. I would go to play at Lily's house down the street and have to be home by 4. Three thirty would roll around and she would have forgotten where I was so when I got back at 4 I was grounded for sneaking out, or for being late. I would try and argue that I had asked permission and she would swear I hadn't and so I was grounded. Then I would get off the grounding for "good behavior". Things like doing her chores or walking to Lotta Burger to get her fries and shake or making her something to eat. But then after she would un-ground me she would forget that she had and ground me again for going out when I was grounded.
Then there was the physical abuse. Keep in mind there was that 7 year age difference so there was a 7 year size difference. The worst of her erratic behaviors happened when I was around 9 or 10 and she was 16 or 17. She would punch me in the arm or in the leg sometimes in the side or smack me in the back of the head out of the blue. Never the face. I never had a mark on me that anyone else could see, but my arms and legs usually had a pretty good amount of bruising. Or she would grab my arm and dig into me with her nails. The physical stuff was much less than the emotional abuse but it was so much more random. There didn't need to be anything to provoke it so it made it much scarier. Much harder to avoid. We would be sitting down watching something on TV and she would raise her arm up and slam her fist down into my leg.
And then there were the times I would provoke her. Crazy right? But I used to think that someday I would be as big as she was and someday she wouldn't be stronger than I was. And I would reach a point where I had had enough. I had been yelled at enough, I had been grounded enough, I was tired and pissed and so I would push at her until she got mad and then I would hit her. Of course this always ended up badly for me as she would kick my ass, but it gave me a measuring stick. I would think, okay, not yet, but soon. I got in a few licks that time so next time maybe I will be ready.
For the most part I tried to hide and stay out of the way. My parents had a huge walk in closet and I set up a space in the back, drug in a blanket a flashlight and some books. I would go hide in the closet and read when she was in the worst of a tear. It took her probably 6 months to find my hidey hole. It was a bad day. Sometimes when she was speeding she would go on these cleaning binges in our room. Put everything away, rearrange the furniture, sometimes she painted things and put them on the walls. Just bursts of energy to direct someplace. Well the problem with cleaning and putting things away is forgetting where you put things. Often I would try to pay attention while she was doing it so when she was tearing everything up looking for whatever she lost I could find it and stop her from messing everything up. The only problem with this tactic is that she would sometimes thank me and sometimes accuse me of hiding things. So on this particular day she had somehow found my space in the closet and decided that the only reason I would have a hiding space is if I was hiding things from her. Of course I was, but the thing I was hiding was me.
So anyway, I was back in my place reading a book and lost in the story. She burst into the front of the closet and started yelling at me to come out. Now I am not coming out when she was yelling like that so I said no. She stomped back to the back and grabbed me by the ankle and drug me out. She started yelling at me about stealing her stuff and she knew I was and how I was never to use that space again. She drug out the blanket and threw it at me followed by the flashlight and the books. Bam, bam, bam...one thing after another being thrown at me. And then I was grounded for stealing and lying to her and she told my parents that there must be something wrong with me for hiding in the closet like that. So that night I had to stand in front of my mother while she peppered me with questions about why I was hiding in the closet like that while my sister sat and stared at me. I was shocked. I had been drug out, had things thrown at me, yelled at and now I was getting the third degree. Looking back I wish I would have opened my mouth and told my mother exactly why, but remember I had already learned the lesson that complaining to my parents made the punishment worse. So I just said I just did it to have someplace to read. I was banished from the hidey hole.
One of the scariest moments of my childhood was because of my sister, but not from my sister. There was this guy she was either dating him or dealing drugs for him, I am not sure which. When I asked her about it years later she didn't remember any of it so I have no idea who he was to her. Anyway...one day he showed up at the house and they started arguing. She yelled at him to go away and he did. But then he came back. She made me open the door and tell him to go away. I opened the door to tell him she didn't want to talk to him and he was pacing on the front porch, as he turned around towards me I could see he had something small and dark in his hand. I don't know for sure if it was a gun or a billy club, but it wasn't good. I slammed the door and locked it before he could make it back across the porch. He started pounding on the door screaming for her to come out before he broke it down. I sat with my back against the door scared to death and frozen in place. For some reason I thought he might be able to see me through the peep hole if I moved. I finally yelled for her to call the police. She wasn't going to do that, there were drugs in the house and she was probably high right then, but the threat of the police was enough for him to go away. She made me swear not to tell mom and dad or he would come back. I never said a word, but he visited me in nightmares for years after that.
Toward the end of her drug use I started spending more time with my brother. He would take me to the movies or the book store. Just out of the house. The last time my sister was ever physically abusive towards me he was there. Looking back it must have been at the very end of her using days. I think she must have been mostly clean by then. So either it was one of the last times she got high or it was just a bad day with no drugs involved. I know it had to be toward the end of her using because most of my memories of the really bad times happened in the house on Burton but this was in the trailer so I know it was later and she would have been getting clean by then but since she doesn't remember the incident I am going to go with she was high.
Anyway, I was unloading the dishwasher and my brother, sister and I were all together in the kitchen. I am not sure what was said, or what provoked it anymore but she grabbed a knife out of the silverware holder and stabbed me. My brother was out of his chair in a shot and grabbed her hand and yanked her off her feet. He then told her she was never to ever touch me again. And she didn't. There are two things about this story that will come back up later. One is that you will see a close repeat of this story with other players later, it's actually odd how similar it is. And the second is when I was in my late teens and talking to my sister about this incident she told me she didn't remember it, after I showed her the scar on my clavicle she said, "Oh I didn't STAB you, I cut you a little." So she didn't stab me, she just cut me a little. The scar has faded away now but for years I would look at in the mirror to remind myself that all of that really happened because it seemed like I was the only one in my family that remembered it.
The other part of that experience didn't hit me until I started writing this blog. My brother had to have started figuring out something was wrong. He and my sister are close in age but growing up couldn't stand each other. They were as different as two people could be. When her drug use was just warming up he was finishing high school and starting his nursing program along with working full time. Towards the end he was just working. I think as he got less busy he was around home enough to see that something was wrong. Either he was worried about her behavior or he was noticing mine. I am not really sure, but he probably saved me a lot of damage by pulling me out of the house more and more often. And by stopping her that time in the kitchen he prevented any more physical abuse ever again. It amazes me that I never realized that until now. Shows that sometimes even when you think you have it all figured out you learn something new about yourself.
I think that was more than enough for one day. Still with me? Tomorrow we move on to the repercussions of those years.